City planners are at risk from plunging into an abyss of mobility chaos by failing to tackle the key challenges of facing today’s urban environment, Rasmus Lindholm director of partnership and communications at ERTICO tells Paul Myles

“Local and city authorities are standing on the edge of a cliff right now when it comes to urban mobility,” Lindholm said. “They need to make decisions on mobility that goes beyond business-as-usual.”

He said their failure to act will make urban life worse for the increasing numbers of people flooding into cities around the world.

Lindholm said: “Mobility solutions in many cities are getting worse. Congestion is getting worse and CO2 emissions, something on the political agenda right now, are not improving fast enough and very shortly we will have big problems unless they start waking up.

“I can criticise the cities because it is the civil engineers who sit in the technical departments making these decisions and I’m a civil engineer myself.”

Speaking ahead of the Intelligent Transport Solutions (ITS) World Congress in France this autumn, Lindholm said cities need to recognise the huge benefits they can achieve from investing in mobility solutions that work.

He explained: “The benefit for local authorities is that they could be getting more for less. I think what ITS has to offer and the different traffic management systems, smart ticketing, etc., because they will be able to solve more challenges by implementing technology than they will by building more infrastructure.

“In many of the older cities of Europe you do not have the luxury of being able to upgrade infrastructure. We are working with several cities because they want to move away from the traditional way they procure solutions.

“Instead of hiring a consultancy that writes the tender for them, they issue the tender, do a procurement process and then select the buyer, what we are seeing is that would much rather have informal discussions from people within the industry that could be part of providing a solution. Proof of concepts, pilot projects and innovative procurement is part of what people are looking at. By talking to the industry in an informal way they can ask ‘what can you come up with for me?’”

He cited Denmark as an example of where city planners are seizing the mobility nettle to improve the lives of its urban dwellers.

Lindholm said: “An example of this happening is Copenhagen, a city which has been going through this phase and we have helped them organise an informal workshop together with industry under the umbrella of Quality of Life to improve people’s lives in the city centre and they needed someone to come up with a solution for them.

“After this innovative procurement process we had several proof of concepts developed from the industry where they came up with different solutions.

“Another example from Copenhagen happened a few years ago when they wanted to change their traffic light system. Instead of procuring infrastructure and physically putting in new traffic lights, we engaged them in a pilot project that would give them the connectivity aspects. So now buses are communicating with traffic lights so they can reduce or increase the green-time of the lights. All of a sudden the traffic flow becomes more effective and the improvement on the environment by far exceeds the cost of adding communication to traffic signals.

“This system was also applied to truck movements through the city and there was a 15% reduction in fuel costs for trucks that were given priority by the lights.”

Lindholm is the coordinator of the European Commission co-funded project MOBiNET which develops a European-wide eMarket place for mobility services including ‘Mobility as a Service’.

He explained: “This is a newer development and we will see a lot more of mobility as a service because of the younger generation. They have grown up with technology and with sharing a lot of things and not actually owning them as with our or our parents’ generation.

“Mobility as a service would see different modes of transport are integrated into one package that you buy on, say, a monthly basis is going to gain momentum. That’s because it will help people to get quicker from A to B and the cost of using public transport is less than owning a car.

“This requires the local, authorities, transport providers and the vehicle manufacturers to get round a table because the private car will always be part of the mix.”

Find out about the future of auto mobility at TU-Automotive Europe 2015, Stuttgart, November 2-3.